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Australia, 1989

Jane Campion’s debut feature film, Sweetie, received attention for its off-kilter aesthetic in this family drama-comedy. Camera angles frame its oddball characters in corners, muted tones and alienating spaces fill the screen, and unproductive conversations between subdued (yet superstitious) Kay and her eccentric and volatile sister Dawn, a.k.a. Sweetie, push the narrative to a heavy ending. The film can bring up complicated feelings with its mix of tones; not knowing if we’re having fun watching the story unravel while the characters dance and road trip, or suffering alongside them as they fail to address trauma and mental illness within their family. Campion has gone on to direct serious dramas including, The Piano (1993) and The Power of the Dog (2021), but simple (though bizarre) Sweetie remains a personal and thoughtful exploration of sisterhood.

35mm, color, 99 min. Director: Jane Campion. Screenwriter: Jane Campion, Gerard Lee. With: Geneviève Lemon, Karen Colston, Tom Lycos.

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